With great pets comes great responsibility.
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I love my cats fiercely, but it often feels like pet ownership is a lot like having a furry toddler, in that I spend a lot of my time going, “How did you get in there?” or “I didn’t even realize that could fit in a mouth that small.”
There are so many wonderful perks to owning a furry companion, like cuddles and cuteness, but it’s definitely something that requires work every day (and lots of constant learning). Many household items that wouldn’t even cause you to blink twice suddenly become problematic, especially when you start finding them in your pet’s poop or vice versa.
Let’s take a look at all the things you should reconsider owning if you have pets, and—if you can’t live without it—what you can get to replace them.
Dryer sheets are great for keeping your clothes smelling and feeling fresh, but they’re made with a number of chemicals that are toxic to your pets when ingested. Each sheet contains a concentrated dose of cleaning components, which are harmful to dogs and cats when both eaten, and—I can’t believe I have to say this—rubbed on them. That’s right, if you come across an Internet tip suggesting you rub your pets in dryer sheets to remove excess hair, please don’t—all this does is rub your pet in harmful chemicals that they’ll lick right off. And don’t do it to your partner, either; I’ve learned the hard way humans don’t love this, though it’s not toxic to them.
Get this instead: Liquid fabric softener
If you want that sweet soft fabric without the fear of harming your pooch, opt for the liquid form. You’ll add it during the washing cycle instead of the drying one, but it’ll prevent sheets from getting within your pets’ reach and potentially causing harm.
Leather couches look cool and feel great, but that doesn’t mean your pet agrees (or cares). You can purchase all the cat scratchers your heart desires, but the likelihood that your pet will accidentally or intentionally scratch your couch with their claws is pretty high. Whether they’re jumping up to sit with you, sharpening their claws, or kneading to craft the perfect sleep spot, their claws will wear on your leather couch, causing it to crack and peel over time. Do you think it’s fun to stand up with small pieces of your couch attached to your body every time? It’s not, trust me (can you tell I’ve lived through this?).
Get this instead: Fabric couches that can withstand those claws
Fabric couches are the way to go. You won’t be able to stop those scratch marks entirely, but a sturdier material—like suede or cotton—can withstand those claws better than leather or faux leather.
Our favorite: Celestia Rolled Arm Sofa—$297.99 at Wayfair
Gone are the days when your standard standing vacuum could handle the dirt in your home. When you own pets, your house suddenly becomes a lot dirtier. You find yourself cleaning up tracked-in mud, picking up small pieces of stuffing from formerly fat plush squirrels, and—you guessed it—vacuuming pet hair from literally every single surface of your home. I mean seriously, it’s everywhere. I found a tuft of cat hair on the oven this week. The oven! Is nothing sacred?
Get this instead: A pet vacuum that can handle the shedding
Standard vacuums can only handle so much before getting clogged, especially when it comes to all that shedding. Robot vacuums are godsends when it comes to pet hair removal, and the best robot vacuums for pet hair—like our top pick, the Neato Robotics D7—clean on a set schedule, and they can hit those hard-to-reach places that accumulate hairballs. Plus, they do it all without your assistance. If you feel strongly about purchasing a standing vacuum, opt for one specifically built with filters and attachments that will help you get the most pet hair out of your carpet and off of the couch.
There’s something so gloriously easy about being able to toss an item into the trash can from across the room. But that satisfaction is short-lived as soon as you see your dog running around with the carcass from last night’s chicken, or come home to find your pupper playing around with a ripped-open trash bag. No room is safe, not even your bathroom, where your trash can is filled with cat hazards like used floss and Q-tips.
Get this instead: A trash can secured with a lid
Your best bet is securing that trash can with a lid that can’t be bopped or knocked off by your pet. Look for a stainless steel container with a foot pedal, like our favorite kitchen trash can or a touchless trash can with the sensor on the lid. Locking your trash up can not only save you from having to rebag it, but can also keep your pet safe from whatever harmful items might be contained inside.
Remember how your home suddenly becomes much dirtier after you get pets? This applies to every room in the house, including your bedroom. Light, and especially white, comforters pick up the pet dander, fur, and dirt that your fluffy friend carries around all day, causing your bedspread to become filthy pretty quickly. These lighter comforters hold on to these stains much longer than their darker alternatives, making them a nightmare for pet owners (especially those of us with dark-haired companions).
Get this instead: A dark comforter to hide the sins
I’m not saying you’ll never have to wash your comforter if you pick a darker color, but I’m definitely saying the pet hair won’t bother you as much if you can’t see it. Plus, those unidentifiable stains and tiny holes from tiny claws won’t stand out as much as they do against white backdrops. Thankfully there are lots of great comforters out there that are silky, comfy, and dark enough to hide that hair, and the best affordable option comes in a few different dark shades.
One time I came home from work to find an empty toilet bowl, a bath mat soaked in toilet water, and an angry, equally drenched cat. It was one of those moments where I wished I had a pet camera, because I would have been slightly less angry if I could have at least seen my cat flopping around in the toilet. Some pets like to swim, some pets like to drink—and few owners enjoy coming home to finding this sacred place desecrated.
Get this instead: A lid lock for the toilet seat
Animals are crafty, especially when they want something. My cats are polydactyl—they have kitty thumbs—so if I don’t have locks in place, they’re going to get into whatever they want or hurt themselves trying. If your fluffy friends are equally curious (and tenacious), you’ll want to invest in a toilet lid lock that can keep them out of the toilet bowl.
There are a number of benefits to ditching wall-to-wall carpets and opting for hardwood floors, especially for pet owners. Carpets catch and hold more dirt, pet hair, stains, and odors than hardwood floors. In areas of your home where the carpet separates from the floor—like doorways and transitional areas—your pets are more likely to scratch and dig up the fibers. These carpet fibers can be dangerous to your pets when ingested (and make a mess), which isn’t fun for either of you.
Get this instead: Carpet protectors to keep the rough spots covered
My obvious preference is ditching your carpet for hardwood floors, but if you love your floors—or aren’t ready to commit financially to hardwood—opt for plastic carpet protectors that can cover the more easily torn areas, such as those found in doorways and between seams.
Our favorite: CarPET Scratch Stopper—$29.95 on Amazon
The ironic part about pet ownership is that you suddenly find yourself needing to clean every surface of your home, but chemical cleaners like the ones you’ve already got in your pantry can contain materials that may be harmful to your pet. These cleaners shouldn’t be ingested, inhaled, or licked by your fluffy friend, which is much easier remembered than enforced. If you do need to own harsh cleaning chemicals, keep them locked up and far away from feeding areas; if you’re looking for less abrasive alternatives, consider using organic cleaners.
Get this instead: Organic alternatives that aren’t toxic
Search for cleaners made from organic materials that are pet-safe. Read the labels while you’re shopping and keep your eyes peeled for phrases that should raise red flags, like “do not inhale” and “irritant.” Opt for a multi-surface cleaner like this popular Puracy spray, with all the power and none of the panic.
Our favorite: Puracy Natural All Purpose Cleaner—$12.47 on Amazon
I knit on a near-daily basis, and before I had cats, I kept all my loose yarn in a large bin without a lid. What I learned pretty quickly after getting pets was that while they are insufferably adorable when playing with yarn, it’s not something you want them doing unsupervised, especially when you’re not home. Not only will you find yourself returning to a living room that looks like a makeshift Mission Impossible set, but you’ll be left panic-stricken wondering if your cat has accidentally eaten any of the string, which can be harmful to their intestinal systems.
Get this instead: A craft organizer to keep everything secure (and tidy)
Out of sight, out of mind. When you’re not using them, keep your yarn and other odds and ends securely stored in a container with a lid, like some of our favorite under bed storage bins. For yarn organizing specifically, opt for a container large enough to hold your skeins and secure enough to keep those stray strands out of your kitty’s reach.
Our favorite: Sterilite Ultra Storage Box with Wheels—$74.20 on Amazon
Don’t you dare lie to me, I know you do it too. It’s so tempting to toss your laundry in a pile on the floor, especially when you know it’ll just need to end up in the washer eventually. But what you see as a pile of clothes (some of which may still be clean enough to wear again), your pet sees as a great place to sleep, hide toys in, and—in some unfortunate scenarios—pee. Unless you want your floor clothes covered in hair, dander, and leftover litter, it might be time to invest in a hamper.
Get this instead: A closed hamper to keep your clothing confined
An organized hamper with a lid can help prevent your pet from nestling in your dirty clothes pile, saving you the frustration of having to shake out clothes before tossing them in the washer. The lid keeps your pet from diving headfirst into the hamper, while the basket itself can keep your clothes from accumulating floor gunk. Win-win!
My cat absolutely loves the towel closet, and it’s one of those things where I really don’t mind when she nestles in there (because she’s adorable), but my husband feels strongly about keeping her out. As much as I don’t like to admit when he’s right, he won this fight the first time I had to use a towel after allowing my cat to sleep on them. Seriously, it was like I became Austin Powers after drying off (are Austin Powers references still timely?).
Get this instead: Cabinet latches to prevent nesting (and the hair, oh god, the hair)
My cat learned that by batting the cabinet door, she could get it to bounce off the wall and open just enough for her to get her paw in there. Getting a cabinet latch is the only way to prevent her from prying open the door and living inside a towel.
Our favorite: The Good Stuff Cabinet Lock—$16.99 on Amazon
Remember those rope obstacle courses at playgrounds that you loved playing in as a child? For your pet, dangling wires from televisions, gaming stations, and computers look exactly like that. Wide-eyed and open-pawed, your pets may enjoy playing in these wires, batting them around, and biting into them—all three of which are a recipe for disaster.
Get this instead: Cable ties to keep them contained
You can’t just not have wires if you own electronics, so you need to find a way to keep your cables contained and organized to prevent your pet from playing with them. You can cover them, elevate them, or tie them together for the best results. We recommend investing in reusable cable ties, which can prevent the dangling and add a little more structure to your electronic areas.
Our favorite: Pasow Cable Ties—$7.49 on Amazon
I only own two remotes and I lose at least one a day, but my parents—who have one dog and two cats—have at least five remotes, some of which are missing buttons, have no battery backings, and have chunks of plastic marred with bites. I think one is just permanently misplaced, partially due to the dog running away with it and hiding it among her half-eaten stuffed animals, and partially due to just normal human disorganization.
Get this instead: An entertainment organizer to keep them all contained
Keep your remotes out of reach from your pets and contained to one spot with an organizer that has separate compartments for each one. Try to avoid the temptation of organizers that drape from your couch arms, as they can be easily pulled down by curious cats and playful pups. Honestly, the hardest part about keeping your remotes organized will be remembering to put them in your new container at the end of the night, and we both know that’s true.
Our favorite: Spinning Remote Control Organizer—$17.99 on Amazon
There are many things my cats love chewing even though they know they shouldn’t, including plastic bags, bookmarks, and flowers. I love coming home to a fresh bouquet of flowers where each bud is adorned with a lovely bite mark. The flowers we purchase are pet safe, so thankfully the only inconvenience is holy leaves, but many common household plants are toxic to dogs and cats, including lilies, hydrangeas, ferns, and calla lilies.
Get this instead: A planter full of succulents
You’ll want to do your research when picking up succulents, but for the most part, these plants are non-toxic to pets. Avoid aloe vera, jade, and kalanchoe, and instead pick one of the following pet-safe succulents: sempervivum, echeveria, graptoveria, or sedum.
Cats poking their little heads out of furniture? Cute. The look of horror on their faces after you accidentally scare them out by shoving a vacuum under a chair with flaps? Not cute. Furniture with fake backs, recliners with flaps, and couches with skirts are great hiding spots for small animals, and most of the time they’re too good at staying unseen. This means we inevitably feel horrible when we don’t realize they’re under there, and more concerningly, pose a risk of harming them by accident (which is so devastating to even think about, I had a hard time typing it; think about the happy kitty poking its head out again, cleanse your brain).
Get this instead: Solid furniture that can’t be nested in
When you’re shopping for furniture that usually comes with flaps—like recliners—opt for a model with solid fabrics and clear separation between the ground and the bottom of the piece. It’s fine if your companion has enough room to hide under it, but make sure you can see your cat or dog before fiddling around with it.
Our favorite: Leonie Manual Recliner—$259.04 at Wayfair
Doors are literally made to keep things out, but when it comes to pets, you need several before you really start to feel secure. Indoor cats may like to creep close to the door and bolt at the first sign of light, while some puppers are happy to knock you down as soon as you enter the house (then also bolt out the open door because SQUIRREL). Thankfully I live with my partner, so when one of us needs to open a door, the other can stand guard. But you know what would be easier than needing another human present every time you are coming or going? A storm door.
Get this instead: A vinyl storm door to prevent your pooch from bolting
Storm doors are the best way to prevent your favorite fluffers from sprinting out of the house. You can ensure you’ve always got one closed before entering or leaving, helping to keep your pet safe and cozy indoors. Bonus points? You can keep your main door open and screen door closed during those breezy summer days, providing your pet with a great sun spot and illusion of being outdoors (which is all they get, sorry kiddos).
Our favorite: KIBY 5 Panel Vinyl Screen Door—$132.99 at Wayfair
To us, potpourri looks like a bowl of hardened shapes that smell like Pier 1. To dogs, it looks like a delicious snack. But the oil that coats potpourri is toxic to cats and dogs, and if your animal even so much as licks this common household staple, they may need a trip to the vet. The compounds can burn mouths and irritate throats, and if too much is ingested, they can harm internal organs, as well. Is the stress worth it? No.
Get this instead: Oil diffusers in hard-to-reach places
Oil diffusers contain similar compounds to potpourri, but the best essential oil diffusers house them in a hardened sheath that traps the oils inside. Some of these essential oils are still toxic to pets in their concentrated forms, so place your oil diffuser in a hard-to-reach spot where your pupper can’t knock it over. The ASPCA also recommends using oil diffusers for short periods of time—as opposed to running them constantly—to ensure your pets stay safe.
Our favorite: InnoGear Upgraded 150ml Diffuser—$14.99 on Amazon
Almost every single medicine you have in your home right now is toxic to pets. From Advil to Tylenol to Xanax to birth control—each of these pills can be harmful to dogs and cats when ingested. The Pet Poison Hotline estimates that 50% of the calls it receives are from pet parents whose fluffers have accidentally consumed human medications. If you have pets, make sure you’re securing those vials tightly and storing them in a pet-proof location.
Get this instead: A medicine cabinet with a latch
That’s right—that thing above your sink and behind your mirror called a “medicine cabinet” can actually be used to store your medicine. Clear out the bobby pins and line up your prescription and over-the-counter meds! Look for a cabinet that has a latch or metallic lock if your pets are particularly curious (or polydactyl, is there anyone out there who feels this struggle with me?).
I do believe this is the scientific term used to describe the conventional mouse trap design—you know the one. It has a spot for cheese and a big snappy metal bar, and while it’s effective for catching mice, it’s just as likely to harm your pet who likes to dig around in dark corners. Avoid standard mouse traps, sticky traps, and any trap that involves zapping, and instead opt for one that allows you to catch and release the tiny critter.
Get this instead: Humane traps that only mice can get into
Humane traps won’t be the exterminator’s first choice, but they’re certainly ours. Traps designed to catch mice—not kill them—will be compact enough to hide in mouse-approved areas, and self-contained enough to ensure the mouse doesn’t escape. You save a mouse and you save your furry friend—this is what we call a ‘win-win.’
Our favorite: Authenzo Humane Mouse Trap—$12.99 on Amazon
In the winter, there’s nothing I want to do more than crawl under the biggest blanket I own while sipping hot chocolate with two hands and pretending to be an Instagram influencer. And there’s nothing my cats love more than jumping on top of me and kneading both me and the blanket until we’re just the right consistency. An electric blanket makes this process much scarier—in fact, electric blankets come with a warning letting you know that pets should not scratch or claw the blanket. While the heating cords are woven throughout the fabric, the blankets come with corded attachments that allow you to adjust the settings—a small box and cord that pose another risk to pets when chewed or clawed.
Get this instead: Weighted blankets, which are better in every way
Weighted blankets can provide that same level of warmth without the electricity. They’re filled with plastic pellets or glass beads, which make the blanket heavier and allow it to better conform around your body. We tested the best weighted blankets of 2019 and found that the right blanket keeps you warm throughout the night without making you sweaty, or—thankfully—worried about your pets in the middle of the night.
Our favorite: The Gravity Blanket (15 lb.)—$249 on Amazon
Diisocyanate glue, commonly known as high-strength glue, is among the most powerful adhesives in existence—it starts as a liquid, then once it hits air, rapidly expands to fill the space, then hardens. While most glues are toxic for pets, high-strength glue is the most harmful, as it forms hardened obstructions in small animals’ stomachs and often requires surgery to remove.
Get this instead: Duct tape (the true elixir of life)
Honestly, I think I’d recommend duct tape for any problem you’re facing. Broken dishwasher? Try duct tape. Need a new purse? Use duct tape. Going through a breakup? We can find some innovative ways to use duct tape for revenge. Opt for a package of this adhesive, the best duct tape we tested, next time you need some high-strength sticking.
Our favorite: Black Gorilla Tape—$7.99 on Amazon
If it ends up on the floor, my cats are going to bat it around until they knock it into an area they can no longer reach. Their favorite floor toys include hair ties and pens, but they’ll play with anything that rolls, like cherry tomatoes and batteries. While both contain acid, the batteries are the most concerning—the concentrated acid found in batteries is harmful to pets when licked or swallowed, so keep these small cells far out of reach from your fluffy companions.
Get this instead: A battery organizer to do that for you
The best way to keep your batteries from rolling into your pet’s reach is by storing them in a plastic container that holds them in their specific place. Pick a container with a lid that can fit easily in your battery drawer—that way you’ll never forget where you put the battery box, and you and your pet can rest easy knowing she won’t lick another battery anytime soon. Plus, this case includes a battery tester so you no longer have to play a guessing game.
It should come as no surprise that an insecticide specifically made to kill and repel moths can be toxic to your pets, especially cats. And honestly I’m taking it as a sign that it’s time to fully embrace cat lady life, because there are few things in this world I hate more than mothballs, especially now that I know their vapors can cause vomiting and kidney damage in cats. Pets who ingest mothballs should be taken to the vet immediately, and if you have them anywhere in your home where your pet can grab (or smell) them, it’s time to toss them.
Get this instead: Cedar chips, which are like mothballs but not the worst
Thankfully, the natural oils found in red cedar can both repel moths and keep your clothes smelling fresh. If you invest in cedar chips, get sealed bags that keep the chips contained—that way you’re not just tossing cedar chips around your closet like mulch. Explore other ways to use cedar—such as cedar dressers, hangers, or these hanger accessories—to further prevent moths from nesting in your clothing.
Though my cats live like queens—surrounded by cat trees, scratchers, and toys—their favorite thing in the living room is a small cardboard box that came with an ice cream delivery several months ago. They chew it, they claw it, and they’ll do anything to get inside of it—and they’re not the only pets who go crazy for cardboard. Cats love to claw it and dogs love to chew it, making cardboard a terrible choice for household storage if you have animals.
Get this instead: Plastic containers that can’t be chewed through
If I replaced my orange ice cream box with a plastic container, I would be met with indifference or entirely ignored altogether. There’s something about a large plastic container that’s just boring to pets—which is great for us. Whether you need to store holiday decorations or seasonal clothes, plastic containers sealed with lids can prevent your pet from tearing up the outside or diving in and cozying up inside.
Our favorite: Sterilite 66 Liter Ultra Latch Box—$61.99 on Amazon
You know that trick where a magician grabs the tablecloth and rips it off, leaving all the glasses and serving ware in tact? Now imagine the magician is your cat, and literally everything breaks as she claws into the tablecloth and runs throughout the house with it still attached to her. Anything that dangles is a bad idea for a pet-filled household, especially if it’s something that supports glass or food (or in the case of tablecloths, both).
Get this instead: Fitted tablecloths, which are a real thing
You’re familiar with fitted sheets, but have you ever heard of fitted tablecloths? They work the exact same way, providing a tight fabric seal over a flat surface. They provide that pop of color your table craves without giving your pets something fun and dangly to grab on to. Bonus, no wrinkles or rumples in your table.
Our favorite: Flannel Backed Vinyl Fitted Table Cover—$13.99 on Amazon
My mother is from the South, so around the holidays, you would always find her living room lined with approximately 20 poinsettias. Then she got a puppy, and quickly learned that these otherwise festive plants are toxic to dogs. The common Christmas decorations emit a sap that can make dogs and cats sick when ingested, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drooling. Thankfully, poinsettias are only considered mildly poisonous, and while you should always consult a vet when your pet is displaying signs of distress, your fluffer should quickly recover if you forget and bring one home.
What you can get instead: Artificial plants and trees
Skip the stress altogether and forgo the poinsettias (sorry, Mom). Fake plants continue to grow more realistic and visually appealing every year, making them a much better alternative to real plants in a pet-filled household. Check out the best places for buying fake plants and opt for a fake poinsettia this year.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.
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